Drug Czar’s Office To NORML: ‘We Can’t Legalize Marijuana Because Some People Abuse Prescription Drugs!’ Wait, Huh?

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director August 22, 2011

    “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
    — Mahatma Gandhi

    What can I say? I’m flattered. David Mineta, deputy director for demand reduction in the Office of National Drug Control Policy, has taken time to publicly respond to little ol’ me. I wonder if they pronounce ‘Armentano’ phonetically at the Drug Czar’s office?

    The back story: Last week NORML Board member Paul Kuhn and I published a guest commentary in Nashville’s largest daily newspaper, The Tennessean, opining in favor of H.R. 2306, the ‘Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011. Here’s an excerpt:

    Marijuana legalization bill offers safer alternative
    via The Tennessean

    We know tobacco is the leading cause of death in America, contributing to 400,000 deaths each year. So it’s hardly any wonder the FDA will require the placement of prominent warning labels. Alcohol is the third-leading cause of death in America. The World Health Organization reported earlier this year that “alcohol causes nearly 4 percent of deaths worldwide, more than AIDS, tuberculosis or violence.”

    … What about marijuana? With every other drug from Advil and alcohol to Zantac, a correct dose is effective, but too high a dose kills the patient. No dose of marijuana is capable of causing a fatal overdose.

    … And unlike alcohol and tobacco, adverse effects of even heavy cannabis use are minimal. There is no epidemiological evidence in any country, after scores of studies and centuries of use by tens of millions of people, that marijuana smokers have a shorter life expectancy than non-smokers.

    … They don’t become violent at sports events or beat their spouses and children. They don’t get heart disease, cancer, brain damage or any other deadly illness at a higher rate than those who abstain. In fact, a pair of studies conducted by Kaiser Permanente found that marijuana use, even long-term, was not associated with elevated levels of mortality or incidences of cancer, including types of cancers associated with tobacco smoking.

    … America is on a path to allow adults to choose a safer alternative to tobacco and alcohol. And create more tax revenue and more jobs in Tennessee. And more freedom.

    Apparently quite a few people read our editorial, including some folks at the Drug Czar’s office. And it must have gotten under their skin because today the White House responded with this.

    Movement for legalized marijuana ignores dangers
    via The Tennessean

    Proponents of marijuana legalization often argue it will do everything from fixing our economy to ending violent crime (“Marijuana legalization bill offers safer alternative,” Tennessee Voices, Aug. 15). Yet, the science is clear: Marijuana use is not a benign drug and it is harmful to public health and safety.

    … Would marijuana legalization make Tennessee healthier or safer? One needs to look no further than Tennessee’s current painful experience with prescription drug abuse. In Tennessee, prescription drugs are legal, regulated, and taxed — and yet rates of the abuse of pain relievers in the state exceed the national average by more than 10 percent.

    Nationally, someone dies from an unintentional drug overdose — driven in large part by prescription drug abuse — on average every 19 minutes. What would America look like if we had just as many people using marijuana as we currently have smoking cigarettes, abusing alcohol, and abusing prescription drugs?

    The classic ‘bait-and-switch’ goes on and on, but you get the idea. But I’m not sure the Drug Czar’s office does. After all, if their logic above had even a hint of consistency then they would be arguing for the criminal prohibition of cigarettes, alcohol, and prescription drugs. And lots of other things.

    Yet when it comes to Americans’ use of substances like tobacco, booze, and prescription drugs — substances that pose far greater dangers to health than does cannabis — the White House recognizes that prohibition is not the answer: regulation and education are. So why does the Drug Czar’s office fail to apply this same common-sense principle to pot? Perhaps it has something to do with the federal requirement requiring the office to lie about legalization.

    Finally, as to the specific question: ‘What would America look like if we had just as many people using marijuana as are presently using tobacco, alcohol, and prescription medications?’ Well, what does America look like today? After all, the federal government imposed criminal prohibition over 70 years ago; yet today that very same federal government admits that over one out of ten Americans admit to having using cannabis in the past year. Among those age 18 to 25, almost half admit to consuming cannabis recently!

    The question isn’t ‘What if Americans consumed marijuana?’ The reality is that tens of millions of Americans have and do consume marijuana. Most do so privately and responsibly. Legalizing cannabis simply acknowledges this reality and seeks to regulate the behavior appropriately. In a free society, why would even consider doing differently?

    136 responses to “Drug Czar’s Office To NORML: ‘We Can’t Legalize Marijuana Because Some People Abuse Prescription Drugs!’ Wait, Huh?”

    1. Mike smith says:

      Hold on I was overdosing from weed when reading this. Lemme re-read brb

    2. Jesse says:

      What a complete Joke. They managed to completely avoid the concerns and totally derail the whole argument. It doesn’t take a genius or an overpaid drug czar to know that prescription drug abuse is a problem. How that has anything to do with pot, which is clearly in an entirely different boat is beyond me. Soon enough, more of America will wake the hell up and see the shear stupidity coming from washington.

    3. jane pothead says:

      why do we feel the need to rant on about prescription drugs when that was not even the issue in which you were responding to? People use pot now, its not like thats going to change whether it be illegal or legal, so why not try and tax and regulate a safer alternative? because whether we want to accept or not all these “pill heads” are lining the big pharma companies pockets, which in turn line congress’s pockets, come now they dont want any competition. how far is the country going to slip before we start worrying about our citizens, instead of big business? quit pourin money away on trying to stop drugs, this war is pointless and just makes the cartels richer, why not let us citizens decide instead of the whatever “cartel” with ak47s and missles and grenades and bombs, all bought with money that couldve gone to someone in this country that needed it, maybe we could bring our troops home, and stop blowing money, but thats a different story. bottom line: war on drugs = total fail

    4. I’ve been imbibing in marijuana for over 15 years. I’m not a threat to national security. I don’t abuse or neglect my wife. I’m still the same person who cares, loves, and gives to anyone who needs help. Marijuana is not a crutch, an excuse, or reason not to be a human being. I don’t lie, steal, or kill to get my way in life. My father of 60 years smoked incessantly because he enjoyed it. Who cares about the opinions of those that dictate policy and law. WE THE PEOPLE CONTROL THE POWERS THAT BE. Their day will come when they fall from their roman empire and OUR day will come to restore decency and balance. The meek will inherit the Earth, NOT the wicked.

    5. elliott kress says:

      if only the politics in america employed common sense we know the inconsistencies in the argument against legaliztioand, we can surmise the benefits of legalization. its political fear that keeps many in DC and state capitols in opposition. also the vast sums of money spent on our drug war motivate many to continue to pursue this insane course of action. when will a pres step up and get real and advocate a repeal of the harrison narcotics act regarding marijuana. but all we get are pussies who probably enjoyed a joint or two in thier own homes or dorm rooms. some day when we can actually educate our youth about whats actually going on. Willing to help spread accurate info, almost got legal here in cal but maybe too many sat on thier ass when the prop failed to pass..

    6. Steven Stein says:

      What are the Feds going to do when California passes legalization? Arrest the entire state? Test the water for signs of marijuana as it drains from the state? The people are so sick of our government these days that I believe if the Feds try to undermine any law passed by the citizens of Ca there might be another civil war. It’s time the Feds let us test our laws without their interfearance.

    7. Jim Johnson says:

      If this is then the case at hand, theres only one logical alternative. Criminalize alcohol and tobacco until the prohibition of cannabis has been repealed. This is a call for a revolution. Stand brothers, speak and be heard.

    8. Matt says:

      This is comical. I love/hate seeing them spin your question to spit back the same rhetorics they cling to over–and over, and over.I wrote an oversimplified bit on what would happen if legal marijuana use decreased other drugs’ use just 1%.


    9. Jeff aka TheDeacon says:

      Freaking Blockheads. my guess is they are closet opiate junkies. Norco (Hydrocodone 10mg), Methadone or Oxycontin being there prescription of choice. Demerol for the hardcores. Totally idiotic.

    10. “‘We Can’t Legalize Marijuana Because Some People Abuse Prescription Drugs!’ Wait, Huh?” *Insert clueless dog-ears*

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